Research Paper: Leadership Evaluation of Margaret Thatcher

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[. . .] Thatcher's political career, and despite being reelected for a third term as prime minister in 1987, she was publically challenged by her own political party and was subsequently forced to resign in 1990 (Decosterd, 2013). It is possible, however, that this eventuality could have been avoided altogether if Ms. Thatcher had recognized that her leadership style and tactics were failing to produce the desired outcomes and taken steps to adapt. Indeed, being "strong-willed" is one thing, but stubbornly refusing to accept changes in reality is quite another. To her credit, though, Ms. Thatcher was highly effective at using various motivational techniques to help achieve her political goals and these issues are discussed further below.

2. Describe how three motivational techniques (e.g., recognition, praise, goal setting,

encouraging creativity, innovation) were used by the leader and how the techniques

affected followers

During her lengthy tenure as prime minister, Ms. Thatcher used a wide array of motivational techniques including recognition, goal setting and the encouragement of innovation to motivate the British people and fellow politicians. In this regard, Gschwandtner (2014) points out that, "Throughout her term as prime minister she encouraged her fellow citizens to assume a greater share of individual responsibility and to treasure the gift of independence" (para. 6). In addition, besides being a highly assertive leader, Ms. Thatcher was also a charismatic leader who communicated her beliefs in unambiguous but strongly worded terms, including the goals she expected her subordinates to achieve (Gschwandtner, 2014). For instance, Gschwandtner (2014) reports that, "Margaret Thatcher's first cabinet meeting set the tone of how she expected her government to run: efficiently, effectively, where people work as a team and where all ministers were expected to play from the same sheet of music" (para. 6).

These motivational techniques also served her well for much of her tenure as British prime minister but in at least one case had serious and unexpected repercussions on her career. For example, in an attempt to reduce labor costs, Ms. Thatcher failed to recognize that trade unions in the private and public sectors were not identical in their motivational orientations, resulting in backlashes that would return to haunt her during her final years in office (Constantine, 2008). It is possible, though, that Ms. Thatcher could have recognized these differences and the potential for her assertive leadership style to backfire during her final term as prime minister if she had actively solicited feedback from people who were in a position to recognize these constraints as discussed further below.

a. Recommend an additional feedback, coaching, or executive coaching technique that could have been used by the leader to improve performance.

Rather than remain tied to her assertive leadership style and tactics while brooking no dissent, it is possible that Ms. Thatcher could have avoided the untimely end of her political career by actively soliciting feedback from the people around her, including her opponents, concerning how best to proceed, something she was also unwilling or unable to do. Nevertheless, many analysts argue that the feedback process is an essential ingredient for leadership success. For instance, according to Baker and Perreault (2013), "For most, feedback is used to provide information on proximal goals and immediate and recent behaviors. It is also utilized to inform members of desirable development and outcomes" (p. 260).

Furthermore, by actively soliciting feedback concerning her behaviors and performance, the criticisms that were increasingly directed Ms. Thatcher might have been defused or even countered altogether. As Asumeng (2013) emphasizes, "A manager who actively seeks feedback about his or her job performance is assumed to be more effective in his or her job than the one who does not" (p. 374). This is not to say, of course, that merely seeking feedback from others concerning her behaviors and performance would have been enough to salvage her political career during her third term as prime minister (especially if she refused to act on this feedback), but it is to say that she was placed at a serious political disadvantage by failing to fully comprehend the growing opposition she faced or why.

3. Describe how power and influence were used to accomplish organizational goals.

One area in which Ms. Thatcher truly shined as a political leader was the manner in which she wielded power and influence, especially during the early part of her career. As a female, Ms. Thatcher was faced with some formidable challenges in her quest to advance in the British political ranks, including battling it out with members of her own political party. Moreover, when she assumed office as prime minister, she was regarded as an outsider by the British cabinet and political system which were both characterized by a consensual attitude (Boyson, 1999).

As noted above, Ms. Thatcher initially overcame these obstacles to her political goals through sheer force of will and a highly assertive leadership style. According to one analyst, "She set a bold example of resolution, as she strode the world stage commanding respect and exercising influence out of all proportion to the U.K.'s power and size. Her frank, personal diplomacy enhanced her and her country's influence" (Thompson & Thompson, 1994, p. 22). As time passed and world events reshaped the geopolitical sphere, though, these same tactics were increasingly regarded as misguided, misplaced and counterproductive.

Even though politicians of any ilk will likely experience some degree of opposition, it is apparent that Ms. Thatcher's power and influence diminished as these criticisms increased. As Gschwandtner (2014) points out, "In her own party her management style raised eyebrows since she replaced more ministers than any previous Prime Minister. It was no secret that she expected obedience in her ranks and it was only a question of time until her followers turned into rebels" (para. 10). Not only did her follower "turn into rebels," even her most ardent supporters would likely have reacted in the same way if they had known the full story concerning how she wielded power and influence on the world stage as discussed further below.

a. Describe how the power and influence techniques were either appropriate or inappropriate.

One especially appropriate use of Ms. Thatcher's power and influence was in eliminating gender disparities in the British armed forces and gender equality in British society (Segell, 2007). Despite this and her many other accomplishments at home, however, it is also important to note that Ms. Thatcher was not reluctant to wield her power and influence for highly inappropriate purposes, including placing a ban on milk exports to Vietnam where many children were malnourished, her defense of the bloodthirsty Pol Pot regime in Cambodia, as well as dispatching British military advisors to help train the Khmer Rouge, something she publicly denied but which was confirmed by Prime Minister John Major in 1991 (Pilger, 2013). Indeed, according to Pilger (2013), "The corruption and inhumanity under Thatcher knew no borders" (p. 54).

There were some other instances of inappropriate use of power and influence that helped hasten the end of Ms. Thatcher tenure as prime minister. While the goals she established during her third term in office were ambitious, many of these initiatives were highly unpopular. Even as criticisms from the British public and politicians increased, Ms. Thatcher refused to back down on any of them and continued to press for the reforms she believed were in the country's best interests. Three initiatives in particular were resented by many British citizens and politicians, with the first being the introduction of an unprecedented national curriculum to reform the British educational system in 1988, revised tax systems for local governments in 1989 and the implementation of a Community Charge or so-called "poll tax" as critics described it, a reference to a similar medieval tax in 1990 (Vlad, 2014). According to Vlad, "All three measures were deeply controversial. The Community Charge, in particular, became a serious political problem, as local councils took advantage of the introduction of a new system in increase tax rates, blaming the increase of the Government" (p. 601). In 1991, Prime Minister Major, recognizing the political heat this measure caused his predecessor, quickly did away with the Community Charge (Vlad, 2014).

In fact, even the power and influence she wielded to improve the British economy eventually caused her appropriate. Despite experiencing significant growth during the period from 1987 through 1988, this rapid growth in the British economy resulted in interest rates doubling, an outcome that further contributed to Ms. Thatcher's political demise (Vlad, 2014). Here again, however, Ms. Thatcher refused to solicit any feedback from her allies or opponents, and even seemed to ignore the results of public opinion polls that showed she had become "out of touch with ordinary people" during her final year in office (Vlad, 2014).

Some other indications of the depth of these negative perceptions can be discerned from the public commentary that were circulated during her final year as prime minister: "The Bishop of Durham called Mrs. Thatcher's policies 'wicked.' Oxford's law professor Ronald… [END OF PREVIEW]

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